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Terrorism preparedness should be part of disaster planning

9/3/2010

By Regina Selman Moore

Although Caribbean nations have not yet experienced terrorism on their home soil, and the risk in the area is considered low, it is still vital for the region’s tourism industry to include terrorism preparedness in its disaster contingency planning.

Such is the information contained in the Multi-Hazard Contingency Planning Manual for the Caribbean Tourism Sector, which has been published jointly by the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Deputy Commissioner of Police, Bertie Hinds, recently pointed to the need to plan for both “improbable and highly improbable” critical incidents, noting that “the tourism product is an extensive raft of assets that must be jealously protected”. He also noted his contribution to the Terrorism Related Contingency Plan for the Tourism Sector in Barbados, spearheaded by the CDEMA.

Such a plan suggests that although being prepared for terrorism is a challenge in the tourism sector, which strives to provide a warm, welcoming and accommodating environment to visitors from around the world, good customer service should not prevent tourism establishments from understanding and addressing their risk and vulnerability to acts of terrorism.

The aforementioned Multi-Hazard Contingency Planning Manual notes that terrorist acts may include bomb threats, vehicle bombs, suicide bombings, or biological, chemical, nuclear or cyber attacks, which can impact tourism establishments by causing physical damage and human injuries or fatalities. The Manual also notes that tourism businesses, such as hotels, restaurants and small crafts markets, have many characteristics that may leave them vulnerable to terrorist threats or terrorist events.

“All venues that attract large crowds and are easily accessible by foot and/or vehicle provide attractive ‘high-value’ targets to terrorist groups. In addition, hotels, which by their very nature provide a welcoming and accommodating environment, respect the privacy of their guests and offer numerous services and amenities, can be used by terrorist groups to prepare or stage an attack. Restaurants and small crafts markets are less easily exploited by terrorists or terrorist groups during the attack-planning stage, as people generally spend a shorter period of time there and have less privacy,” the Planning Manual states.

The Manual adds that as with hurricane preparedness, the members of the tourism establishment’s Emergency Committee, should be responsible for developing and implementing a terrorism preparedness plan and procedures. One key difference is that the security department will play a larger role in this plan than a hurricane plan. A number of steps are also involved in developing a tourism establishment emergency plan for terrorist events and these are included in the manual, which is available from tourism officials, for hoteliers and tourism players.

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